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1975 World Final. Heat 20.
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Peter Collins Autobiography
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It's All About You....David Pickles

Custom House - West Ham

Tell us about your introduction to speedway

I was 9. My father used to get the old London "Evening News", read it, and leave it lying around. I picked it up the next morning, and in the middle were the adverts for entertainment - theatre, cinema, wrestling and speedway. I was intrigued by the word "speedway". It was two words - speed and way. I asked my mother to take me as it advertised West Ham v Coventry. As we lived near West Ham football I wondered what "speedway" was. She took me, I think it was May '64 - I was hooked from the first race. The rest, as they say, is history.


Tell us about your favourite meeting of all time

Probably the England v USA test match at Wimbledon in 1980, I think it was 54-54. The racing was stupendous, and having watched the sport for nigh on 16 years then, and having taken in some world finals, this was the finest advert for the sport there has even been in my opinion.


Tell us about your favourite rider of all time

It has to be Ivan Mauger. Although a lifelone West Ham fan, and subsequently one of Hackney when the Hammers closed, Mauger was the epitome of skill, class and guile. Has there really ever been a rider to come close to him before or since?


Tell us about your favourite track/stadium

It's got to be Custom House, although if we are talking about track preperation and weekly racing, Hackney came pretty close. What a shame we can't turn the clock back to the 1970's and have it all over again. The only positive thing about getting older is the memories one has. And in speedway terms it has to be West Ham and Hackney.


What are the best things about speedway?

Everything! The sport is just one that is addictive. After almost 50 years, the hairs on the back of my neck still stand up when I watch it. It's unique. Where else in the world can you watch a complete race, be it bike or car, in a stadium and see it from beginnig to end? How dare the BBC showcase Grand Prix, and MotoGP and ignore us? Its disgusting.


What are the worst things about speedway?

Guest riders. But then, we've been saying that for 50 years. Apart from that, the weather, but in all honesty how can we slsg off this most majestic of sports? The riders put their lives on the line, the promoters put their wallets. The crowd pays their money for entertainment, and in all honesty even if the racing is second rate we all troop off home and come back the following week. We LOVE IT!


What one thing would you do to improve speedway?

We desperately need a system of proper covers for tracks. I think 2012 has taught us all that the weather now cannot be relied upon. Some tracks have had "covers", but they are seen as temporary. We need a legal and proper means of covering tracks on wet days, whilst allowing the track staff to work on the surface during the dry ones. It's a serious proposition as I fear that this so called "summer" could lead to the loss of at least 4 tracks for 2013.


Tell us about a rider you wish you'd seen

Peter Craven. He was killed at Edinburgh in 1963. I started watching speedway at West Ham in May 1964. I think I've seen the best apart from him. Mauger, Olsen, Briggs, Fundin, Moore, Knuttsson, but Craven no. My personal catalogue of t he giants would have been complete with viewing him.


What does the future hold for speedway?

I think it's on a knife edge here now, personally. In reality there is no longer an "Elite League". How can it be when so many stars of the Grand Prix circuit don't ride here anymore. In my opinion, we have to go back to the 1960's and amalgamate the leagues. Let's put the "elite" league and the premier league together and have another "British League", and make the 3rd tier the National league. Without it, I fear the sport could genuinely fall apart. Ask most of the promoters of "Elite League" teams what they think. The chance to slim down would be welcomed with open arms I think. A league of 22 or so teams would also mean that each team would ride against each other once, rather than twice or more now as is the case. That is what keeps the fans away. And please - do away with guest riders once and for all. Keep a squad of 8 and use R/R and the no. 8 when needed, but not guests. It makes the sport look like a circus


This article was first published on 16th December 2012


  • Robert Rogers:

    "Another fan who wants a return to the Big Leauge, funny the Fans seem in favore but the BSPA does not, although again, another fan who saw the Glory of the big Teams like West Ham and Hackney, prehaps we need to time-warp the present promoters back to the days of the 60`s and 70`s when Speedway was a `King` Sport, now sadly a bit of a `Court Jester`!"

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